NTSB recommends lowering drunk driving threshold

May 14, 2013 6:28:11 PM PDT
If federal accident investigators get their way, the limit on how much you can drink before you drive could go way down. The NTSB is recommending that states cut the DUI threshold by almost half, from the current .08 percent to 0.05 percent blood alcohol content. For the average man, weighing about 180 lbs., that amounts to about 2-3 drinks in one hour's time. For a 140 lb. woman, just 1-2 drinks per hour could put her at that .05 threshold.

If a driver is found to have a blood alcohol level of .08 or above, he or she is subject to arrest and prosecution, but some of the people we spoke to in Oakland who simply want to throw back a cold one at their favorite watering hole believe that the current laws as they stand, go far enough.

At Forge in Oakland's Jack London Square, some of the customers learning of the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendation to lower the blood-alcohol content that constitutes drunk driving are finding the idea hard to swallow.

The recommendation prompted strong responses from people believing resources to enact the change could be better used in other ways.

"I don't think we have the police to enforce it, I would rather the police be enforcing other things in Oakland right now," said Sarah Stephens of Oakland.

According to the NTSB, each year 10,000 Americans die in alcohol related traffic accidents.

"If I'm a person and I know that the legal limit is now .05, if I'm a responsible individual, that means I'm going to be consuming less alcohol," said CHP Ofc. Sam Morgan.

But others don't believe it's that simple and the new numbers will make criminals out of those just trying to enjoy themselves.

"I mean we're talking one beer is .08. To drop it to .05 and not be able to have a glass of wine with dinner and drive home, that's extreme. I mean come on," said Trevor Latham of Oakland.

"The science in determining someone's blood alcohol level is not perfect," said Francisco Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has been a criminal defense attorney specializing in DUI's for almost two decades.

"We have to be very careful and making sure that we don't arrest and convict innocent people," said Rodriquez.

He says restricting moderate consumption of alcohol by responsible adults prior to driving, does absolutely nothing to stop hardcore drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel. If lowering the blood alcohol level were really about saving lives, he argues, the law would clearly state that instead of playing with percentages.

"Why are we allowing our citizens to guess? Why not just simply say, 'Zero drinking/zero driving?'"

The current legal limit is .08. The NTSB believes that if that limit were lowered to .05, as many as 1,000 lives could be saved each year.


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